When it comes to cultural endeavors such as pop music, film and literature, the Northwest has a strong DIY (do-it-yourself) tradition. And with the arrival of BikeSummer Washington...

Share story

When it comes to cultural endeavors such as pop music, film and literature, the Northwest has a strong DIY (do-it-yourself) tradition. And with the arrival of BikeSummer Washington, which kicks off June 11, residents here will have the opportunity to extend that theme to the two-wheeled world of bicycling.

Started five years ago in San Francisco, BikeSummer is 100 days of bicycle-related events — a “celebration” of all things cycling, as the Web site says repeatedly (www.bikesummer.org) — that takes place each year in a different city. Last year, New York played host, and in past years, Portland, Chicago and Vancouver, B.C., have had BikeSummers.

The DIY comes into play in that it’s cyclists themselves — and not only the hard-core, lycra-clad, no-body-fat types, but anyone who enjoys riding a bike — who make up the calendar of events. And events aren’t limited to 80-mile expeditions that cross two mountain passes, says Linda Schwartz, commuting programs director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (BAW), the bicycle advocacy group that’s directing this year’s BikeSummer. They can be pretty much anything, as long as a bike or biking is involved.

For example, on July 16, the calendar lists “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” being shown on Cult Film Night in Fremont, just off the Burke-Gilman Trail. How does this qualify as a bike-related event, besides the fact that participants are encouraged to ride their bikes there? Because, as you’ll no doubt remember, the film follows Pee-wee in his quest to find his stolen bike.

And on Aug. 6, at a location still to be determined, the San Francisco Bicycle Ballet performs a combination of cycling and dance that’s inspired by synchronized swimmers and Busby Berkeley movies.

More “traditional” events are included in the calendar, too — classes to learn how to cycle safely in the city, bike maintenance seminars, training rides for STP (the Seattle-to-Portland ride), etc.

“BikeSummer welcomes anybody with a bike — any kind of bike whatsoever — and any kind of bike-related event that people can come up with,” Schwartz says.

Bringing people together

The Burke-Gilman Trail is a popular path for all bikers — from the serious long-distance pedalers to the casual family cyclists.

Say you’re putting on an organized event (for example, the Wenatchee Apple Century Ride), or an informal one (you and your mates want to sit around in cycling shorts and watch Lance Armstrong on the tube going for his sixth Tour de France win) and you’d like some new folks to join you. Just go to the Web site, enter the information and it’ll show up on the calendar of events.

“The idea is to bring together people who call themselves cyclists with those who don’t, but who do own a bike, and enjoy riding it, whether it’s to the grocery store or the farmers market or wherever,” Schwartz says.

Starting in mid-June, a monthly BikeSummer print calendar will be available at coffee shops and bike-related businesses throughout the Puget Sound area.

When Seattle-based BAW took over this year’s BikeSummer, they made two big changes. First, they turned it into a 100-day celebration; previous BikeSummers were only 30 days. Past hosts have found that just about the time word has finally gotten out about BikeSummer, the 30 days are over, and by extending it to three-plus months, organizers hope everyone will have a chance to hear about it. “We wanted to make it 100 days of bikes as art, events and fun,” Schwartz says.


For more on BikeSummer, call the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, 206-224-9252, or see www.bicyclealliance.org. Or see www.bikesummer.org/2004.

Because BikeSummer is more a framework of many organized events than a single entity, there is no single BikeSummer kickoff event. However, the following can serve that purpose:

June 11 — Greenway Discovery Days ride from Fall City to the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and back. The no-entry-fee 30-mile ride starts at 10 a.m. at the Park & Ride lot by the intersection of highways 202 and 203. For more information, call 206-363-9964.

June 12 — Bicycle Saturday, from Mount Baker Beach to Seward Park. From 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on two weekends each month through September, the city of Seattle closes this four-mile stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard, making it a haven for pedal pumpers of all kinds. At noon at Seward Park, BikeSummer will offer bike-related games, information and refreshments. For information on Bicycle Saturday (and Sunday): www.cityofseattle.net/parks or 206-684-4075.

To learn about all BikeSummer events, see www.bikesummer.org/2004 and click on “Calendar.”

For more information about RAPSody, the 155-mile ride around Puget Sound that takes place Aug. 28 and 29: www.rapsodyride.org or 206-577-6999.

The Web site lists the other goal: 1,000 events with 100,000 participants riding 1 million miles.

BAW also opened BikeSummer to include all of Washington state, not just Seattle. Schwartz points to the fact that with the San Juan Islands, and events such as STP and RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day), Washington is a destination hotspot for cyclists.

“People from all over the country fly here to ride in the summers so it only makes sense to showcase the whole state instead of just one city,” she says.

Rhapsody over RAPSody

One of the newest and most intriguing events on the BikeSummer calendar is RAPSody, the upper-case RAPS standing for Ride Around Puget Sound. Beginning at the Tacoma Dome, this first-time ride heads clockwise to Olympia, then Shelton, Belfair, Port Orchard and south across Vashon Island and back to Tacoma — 155 miles with 9,500 feet of climbing. That’s roughly the equivalent of RAMROD, the big difference being that RAPSody is a two-day ride.

Like STP, RAPSody will have support vans, rest stops and designated campsites where riders may stay after the first day’s pedaling. A one-day ride option is also available.

Five Puget Sound-area bike clubs — Olympia’s Capital Bicycling Club, the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club, Silverdale’s West Sound Cycling Club, the Seattle Bicycle Club and Everett’s B.I.K.E.S. — are hosting the event, the first time so many clubs have worked together on one event. RAPSody, which is for now a one-time event, is a fund-raiser for BAW and as such is the marquee event of BikeSummer.

Mike McQuaide is a Bellingham freelance writer and author of “Day Hikes! North Cascades” (Sasquatch Books).